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toolmaker76
11-07-2009, 07:40 AM
I am a semi-retired tool and die maker- semi in that I get a pension (too young for SS) but its not enough to live on. Have been looking for work, just not had any luck (I say experienced, they hear old fart).

However, I have 30+ years building and designing all kinds of neat stuff. Most of what I have been doing is stamping dies (all varieties) but have made many fixtures and small jigs and tools as well.

I don't have much of a shop (yet) but I do have lots of precision tools, and there is a home machine shop nearby where I can get stuff done if I need machining. All I have right now is a small drill press and a bandsaw. I will have a small lathe in here shortly, am in the market for a mill and surface grinder.

I am doing some assembly/ manufacturing work right now for a company that I just happened into, built my own fixtures for it and so forth; my customer is very happy with my work and contributions (if you make it this way, it will not only be better, but cheaper to produce). That brings some income, but I need more work like this.

Any ideas on how to sell what I can do? I am really not wanting to be a machine shop, more of a one person engineering sort of shop with machines incidental to that. I haven't done any actual advertising or selling yet, but getting to where I need to do something.

Evan
11-07-2009, 08:09 AM
I do the occasional job for money. I haven't solicited work but a few people have contacted me wanting items made. I also have done certain items for trade or just because they needed a hand. I haven't made any money on any of it if you compare the time spent to the money I received and I like it that way. I don't want to turn this hobby into a job.

Carld
11-07-2009, 08:43 AM
The best way to find work is the most obvious, that is, you have to visit the places that could use your services. You may have to travel to surrounding towns if there is no big market where you are. Personally I would steer clear of on line work.

Your Old Dog
11-07-2009, 08:59 AM
............ I don't want to turn this hobby into a job.

Good thinking Evan. I ruined my passion of engraving firearms by taking it commercial. As soon as I had to be out there doing it, it became work and not play.

Bill Moog started Moog Industrys in a two car garage by doing small odd jobs for other shops. I'd suggest the ToolMaker visit some machine shops and see what kind of work they may be willing to farm out to him. My neighbor used to make special sophisticated and complicated screws for McDonnel Douglas and Moog here in town. He was busy enough he had two helpers helping him. It helped him build a beautiful machine shop all by working on the humble screw!

dockrat
11-07-2009, 11:16 AM
I do the occasional job for money. I haven't solicited work but a few people have contacted me wanting items made. I also have done certain items for trade or just because they needed a hand. I haven't made any money on any of it if you compare the time spent to the money I received and I like it that way. I don't want to turn this hobby into a job.

Yeah! What Evan said :)

torker
11-07-2009, 11:51 AM
Yep...what Evan said...
I took my machining hobby and turned it into a business.
Now I could care less if I go out in the shop and do stuff for myself.
I really miss the relaxation I used to get from just the hobby aspect of it.
And designing "cool stuff"...it's a lot different if you are on someones payroll.

I've done that for years...always the "go to guy" when you want something weird built or repaired.
You gotta be careful there. You end up with a lot of kids who have wild ideas and no money....or you end up with ol' retired guys who are bored and dream stuff up.
Then they bring you used metal cuz they are too cheap to buy new stuff.
You are supposed to build them a silk purse out of a pigs arse and charge them nothing for it....as they drive away in their $70,000 pick up truck.

Best stay with what you know. Stay with industrial businesses who aren't looking for something for nothing.
I do get most of my business from machine shops. I asked them to send me the things they didn't want to bother with.
Some work out...some don't.
Russ

MrSleepy
11-07-2009, 01:07 PM
My brother is a pro welder who used to work for the local shipyard/graving dock... When that went TU he spent a while doing shut downs on local oil refinerys etc.. regular but nothing permanent.

While at the dockyard he used to make wedding presents for the other guys..they were made to look like a tree trunk with an axe standing out of it..

Easy to make...cut a length of stainless pipe ..bash it up log like..weld a fake bark pattern to the side and fit and polish alid on top..

He decided to see if there was a market for these..and there is...he takes a few to show the shopkeep and leaves one with them..He goes bold as brass too any shop he thinks may be interested and talks them around..

Just going out and talking to people gets you the work..dont worry about rejection.. I'm not a people person..I find it hard to do..its a gift.

Rob

Alistair Hosie
11-07-2009, 01:18 PM
I don't want to turn this hobby into a job.
__________________
Good for you Evan thats a very important point we must be wary of.I used to be quite competent at photography and have done a few jobs for friends.I refused to take money at all times same with my woodworking I just don't want to get into the pressure of having six of those ready for thursday you know what I mean. It would make an otherwise very enjoyable hobby become in short time a real chore.I have a neighbor accross the road at the time just moved in when he came to my workshop (wood shop) and took a good nosey around then he exclaimed so let's get this straight I can come here when I feel like it and use your equipment and get help doing stuff with my boat and around the house.I said no that's not the case I built this place for my hobby and that's what it is for and Nothing else ever.I do help my other neighbours from time to time he was just so downright rude, he was put in his place right away.Alistair

dp
11-07-2009, 02:25 PM
You're going to benefit from having a web site to show your work and qualifications. It may but useful to focus on a theme such as marine, ag, aerospace, etc. That puts you at an advantage of being able to talk to customers intelligently in terms common to their industry.


Be prepared to put in long hours if you're not prepared to hire help.
Get a very good handle on bidding jobs
Get out front on billing and collections technology and be consistent and timely or you won't get paid
Time spent on the phone or at the billing computer is time not spent making swarf
Line up reliable sources of raw materials
Learn and understand problems with shipping and receiving
Talk to a lawyer about insurance

Carld
11-07-2009, 04:25 PM
If you can't get to your customers in an hour or two to see them face to face you may have problems.

If your customers are in another state suing in another state is a real issue.

Keep your customers close unless your a real big company that can absorb loses.

oil mac
11-07-2009, 06:36 PM
Toolmaker,
I dont want to dissolusion your dream, for some guys the dream works for others it goes TU, This in many cases depends on who you work for or with, In my own experience many moons ago, when i was a lot more fitter & enthuisiastic, along with two other guys we thought we would try our hand at going it alone, In our dreams we thought we would end up as big as British Motor Corporation in next to no time!
The sad lesson i learned pretty damned quick, was if one wants to go down this road, do it alone, Very soon it developed into a scenario, where yours truly was burning the midnight oil, (at 2-30 in the morning), whilst fellow director No1 was away at another pleasant event, "which he just couldnt miss out on " Usually about 3 times /week On a good week, I learned that hard work &dedication soon takes back seat to leisure activities !
Fellow director No2- Well he seemed to rub the customers up the wrong way, more often than not.
Some of the buyers who promised work, This was, if a nice brown envelope was forthcoming, Which, I may add, where i was concerned was not negotiable. Six months later, the concern was gone
Whilst i was writing this experience, my mind, went back, to a happening, not long after my apprenticeship was completed,. I was aproached by an older craftsman, who said to me that "W, W" was retiring from his buisiness, and if he bankrolled me, along with his son, Who i may add is a pretty decent and reliable guy, we could take over the concern, which for a great number of years, was a licence to print money. This set up, was virtually set in motion, when into the equation, stepped an "additional runner" a pretty arrogant chareacter, who said to me, "If you are working for us, You will sign an agreement as to your conditions & how long you will work for us etc, etc, etc" ! Pardon? Slavery was abolished in the 1850/s Ithink! + I would be working along with you not for you, As i was the technical part of the said venture.
Thinking back on it, at 22 years of age, one is not as confident or has the depth of experience to see through a bull****ter, and dispatch him PDQ, I always thought it was an opportunity which passed me by, Where both of us should have got rid of the weak link which had crept into the chain, instead of both of us walking away. Maybe for me it was fate, or just bad luck?
However enough of my ramblings Toolmaker, If you think, you can make a success of your venture go for it, should you be able to earn some cash on your own to back up your occupational pension, You sound skilled and with enough experience to make a fair stab at it, If it does not work out, well you tried , if you dont try you wont know Just make sure you are happy with it, and it is not a drudge- Best of luck.

Your Old Dog
11-07-2009, 06:42 PM
BTW, make sure and read this thread:

OT: Here We Go Again. Seeking Advice On A Legal Matter

:D

toolmaker76
11-08-2009, 12:41 AM
Thanks for the suggestions!

I read that "advice..legal matter" post. That is similar to why I am unemployed. There had been many issues with pay over the last several months I had worked, then over 4th of July holiday the bank would not honor my payroll check (we had learned to take it to the company bank and NEVER deposit one in our personal account).

So there I was on a holiday weekend without a paycheck, knowing that the owner was aware of it, but wrote the checks out anyway. The more I thought about it the madder I got- so when I went back on Monday I loaded up my tools and left, and filed for unemployment. There had also been a concern that the place was going to be seized for taxes or something.

Long story short, I had to get the company audited (no record of me working there this year as the withholding had not been paid), took almost a month to get the unemployment situation ironed out (ruled in my favor) and almost as long to get the two checks I had (by that time) to be honored by the bank.

He is still in business but he had to have someone else come in and subsidize him. It may look like I quit for nothing, but if people would have kept working and put up with it it would have only gotten worse.

I had two supervisors there who were apologetic, did not want me to leave (one has left himself) and I have been using them as references. They have kept busier than other shops but the problem has been gross mismanagement of funds by the owner. Crazy times.

Frank Ford
11-08-2009, 01:16 AM
I've posted this before on another forum, but since I'd gone to the effort to write it, I figured I could burden you with it, too:

I live in the city on a block that was subdivided around 1920, with lots 50 feet wide, so neighbors are all around. No one has ever complained about the sights, sounds or smells coming from my garage, even though I've run a part-time hobby/business out of it off and on for the last 38 years.

I do paying machine work for some basic reasons, even though I have a full time occupation. It makes me feel justified in spending serious money on tools. I can operate my hobby as a business and legitimately deduct 20% of my home expenses on income tax. By doing small production work, I get some real experience cranking handles, "reading" chips, and improve my skills. Beats the hell out of network TV.

Some work finds me. A friend needs a part machined for a banjo, another for a vintage bicycle - that kind of thing.

I stopped into a local "Fine Woodworking" custom furniture maker and let him know I might be able to help with an occasional hardware or tooling issue. Not too long after, he called me an needed to have the diameter of a Forstner bit reduced by .010 for a special doweling job.

I mentioned to the folks at the local hardware store that I'd be available for simple machining jobs if they have a customer with a simple need - say shortening a bunch of screws, making special trim washers, etc. They'd pre-screen the customer, and we'd meet at the store. Hardware guys get the bonus of looking good to a regular customer, and I get a little job.

I devise special tools and items for my own woodwork - repairing guitars - and somebody says, "Jeez, I'd like one of those." So I check in with the supplier of that kind of stuff and strike a deal to make them in small batches for their catalog. Here are a few:


Fret Tang Tools (http://www.lmii.com/CartTwo/thirdproducts.asp?CategoryName=Fretting&NameProdHeader=Fret+Tang+Expander%2C+Fret+Tang+Com pressor)

Fret Tang Filing Jig (http://www.lmii.com/CartTwo/thirdproducts.asp?CategoryName=Fretting&NameProdHeader=Fret+Tang+Removal+Tool)

Jack the Gripper (http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Tools/Special_tools_for:_Electronics/Jack_The_Gripper.html?tab=Pictures#details)

I devised the concept, made the prototype for this tool - Truss Rod Excavator and Die (http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Tools/Special_tools_for:_Truss_rods/Truss_Rod_Rescue_Kit.html?tab=Video#details) - and simply gave the entire thing to the jobber, who took the ball and ran with it. My tool didn't really work well enough to be sold commercially, and I don't have either the knowledge or skill to manufacture the real deal. Sure, I made no $$$ - in fact it cost me some money and time. But I gotta tell you it got me in solid with the main tool guys at the company and that surely didn't hurt a bit when I wanted them to consider selling Jack the Gripper. Jack makes money.

I almost forgot to mention the Web. Having a Web site, and posting LOTS of pictures and stuff about what you do and can do, with as much detail as you can muster, can give you a lot of credibility. I don't solicit work from my sites, but I do get inquiries quite often from all sorts of folks, and I've occasionally taken jobs that way.

As John Milton said some 350 years ago, "Luck is the residue of design." For sure, more will come to you if you hustle than if you don't.

I put in a good deal of effort to publish a ton of material about guitar repair on the Web, and sure enough, I became very well known, and lucky too.

Being in the habit of photographing my work, it came naturally to me to do the same with machining, and as a result of posting it on the Web, I've acquired a reputation much higher than I deserve in that field. . .

oldtiffie
11-08-2009, 02:21 AM
I am a semi-retired tool and die maker- semi in that I get a pension (too young for SS) but its not enough to live on. Have been looking for work, just not had any luck (I say experienced, they hear old fart).

However, I have 30+ years building and designing all kinds of neat stuff. Most of what I have been doing is stamping dies (all varieties) but have made many fixtures and small jigs and tools as well.

I don't have much of a shop (yet) but I do have lots of precision tools, and there is a home machine shop nearby where I can get stuff done if I need machining. All I have right now is a small drill press and a bandsaw. I will have a small lathe in here shortly, am in the market for a mill and surface grinder.

I am doing some assembly/ manufacturing work right now for a company that I just happened into, built my own fixtures for it and so forth; my customer is very happy with my work and contributions (if you make it this way, it will not only be better, but cheaper to produce). That brings some income, but I need more work like this.

Any ideas on how to sell what I can do? I am really not wanting to be a machine shop, more of a one person engineering sort of shop with machines incidental to that. I haven't done any actual advertising or selling yet, but getting to where I need to do something.


HI TM75,

Interesting reading - your post and others.

First of all, in case you missed it, I'd recommend that you (re?)read this thread as it may well have a lot of pertinent comment that may relate to your circumstances.

http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net/showthread.php?t=37506

I ran a very successful home-based Building Design Service. All of our work was "by referral" and "word of mouth" via previous other clients. We never advertised - and never needed to. I only had to give a "fixed price" quote about four times. We would give an indicative quote to start with an indicative scope of works - but that invariably changed as the job/s changed as it/they progressed.

We had out share of "try-ons" with non or late payment. After 30 days it was to the Lawyers and the Courts - we "won" every time as regards judgments in our favour - but we missed payment of the account times three times - for legal reasons - but it soon got around that we were fair but firm. We were sued twice - one was "thrown out" and we won the other. We never hesitated to refuse work if we didn't like the job or the client. We never dealt with "tyre-kickers" or the "something for nothing" Brigade.

We soon learned not to work for "family" "new best friends", local charities or community service etc. organizations as we soon wound up on several "sucker" and "soft touch" grape-vines that were harder to get off from than a Reader's Digest subscription list.

We were a registered business and were well within the enterprises permitted in our residential area.

Running a business with a "machine shop" component in it may well have problems with insurance and zoning/approval.

Cash-flow is the life-blood of a business. You may not be able to stand too many extended or non or partial or "take it or leave it" payment scenarios.

Borrowing from the banks for a "start up" business may not only be expensive and with high/tough conditions as regards repayment, collateral, business plan etc. - if you can get a loan at all from the banks.

You will need a good cash "buffer" to "carry you over" in case of late or non-payment of a large amount owed to you and for "unforseen" items.

Suppliers may well be reluctant to extend credit and they sure won't be interested in any "I will pay you when I get paid ............. " etc. proposals as they then put their head in a noose just to suit or because of your non-payments outside an agreed or imposed "Terms of Trade".

Get a bad or adverse credit rating and the first tier lenders" will not want to deal with you and you may wind headed to the "lenders of last resort" (aka "Loan sharks").

If any one who is jealous of or annoyed by your work or success "reports" or "complains" to the "proper authorities" you may have a whole new set of problems.

I was always very wary of any jobs that were "passed" to me or that have been rejected by others. I refused just about all of them.

If someone for what-ever reason has a "claim" against you for an "injury" or "hurt" on your residential property and it was while on "domestic" and "non-business" - perhaps "social" - then your House and Contents will probably "cover" it - same as your car insurance. But if for what-ever reason the claim - vexatious or true or not - includes a "business" or "commercial" element, your insurer/s may well "walk away" and not only refuse your claim but may also refuse to insure you at all. Getting (re)insured when another Insurer has refused a claim or canceled a policy or refused renewal, you may well have a serious problem getting any new insurance at all.

I know - as will anyone who cares to "Google" it - that some here choose to "not know" or ignore the "rules" and "take a chance" - but that's their decision and their risk.

toolmaker76
11-08-2009, 07:52 AM
Mr. Ford, thanks for the info and links- as it happens I play guitar and have built three of them; two from kits and a bass that I more of less built from scratch. I have never built a neck, always bought them, but I have been to frets.com several times, nice website.

I also dabble in ham radio, have built many kits and projects with that over the years also (boy do I miss Heathkit!). I also do a fair amount of woodworking, too. This along with many years in the tool and die trade.

My little contract assembly job involves a great deal of machining of plastic parts, slots and so forth. I modified a router to make it cut slots, I can machine the slots accurately and with hand pressure- no clamping, etc. I figure the end result is superior to CNC just from the speed of changing workpieces and not having to worry about clamping the work (its uhmw, hard to hold).

Hopefully, I can come up with a widget like Jack the Gripper! I figure the only way to do that is to just get busy with stuff- ideas like that don't come from watching tv, but actually doing stuff.

Oldtiffie, right now cash flow (or lack of it) is the biggest problem I have. I am hoping to get some small jobs to bring some cash in to build on, hopefully thats' not being too naive. But I also realize that it could be a problem bringing in work and not being able to get the tooling/ materials to build it (saw that happen at the place I was just at). I guess I need to look a little harder at the zoning/ insurance issues also.

DR
11-08-2009, 11:56 AM
Don't turn your hobby into a business.....

I keep hearing that. Why not turn something you know about and enjoy into a business?

Others here have complained in the past about ruining their hobby. If your business is successful, then I would think that's all the better. A money making situation, that you enjoy.

On the other hand, if your business is not successful, that might ruin your interest in the hobby.

Are you supposed to go into a business you have no interest in and don't enjoy?

Alistair Hosie
11-08-2009, 12:56 PM
No Dr but running a business is a very different story from working a mill and lathe etc. No matter how well you do it . In my experience most people get into trouble in the first year they don't have anough working capital thats to say those who buy your work will and ecpect a period of grace to pay you mostly 90 days. That means three months with no pay and you spening on all the materials , wages,heating lighting etc .When you do get paid and money comes in they spend like they are rich buying new machinery etc some will never have seen so much in their lives,thinking of all the time it will save them time in the long run.Some forgetting also the tax man he will come knocking. Then you lose just two customers suddenly your not bringing in enough for to pay all the new stuff you've bought or new staff taken on.No matter how well the business does you need to keep a tight rain til you build up decent working capital.all easy mistakes to make and theres another dozen or so just as easy to make round the corner.Someone who is not flighty with money must keep a tight grip of things in this recession many established firms who are owed money are being let down by the bank it's a difficult time to start up anew business.my 3 cents.Alistair